In these uncertain times, it is even more important to consider what steps you should be contemplating to ensure you have peace of mind when facing challenges in the future, both in terms of medical issues and the ageing process. We are mindful of physical and mental health but often place our personal affairs on the back burner.
We have recently seen many cases where the outcome was quite the opposite to that envisaged and could have been avoided by forward thought and planning. Pension schemes, for instance, often fall outside your estate for inheritance tax purposes and are administered by trustees who have a discretion as to payment of benefits. We are surprised by the number of people that do not nominate who should benefit from the pension and assume it will follow the terms of their Will, which is not the case.
Lasting Powers of Attorney must be made before the loss of mental capacity to make sure that decisions on finances and health/welfare are in the hands of selected family members or trusted advisors with alternative provisions to cover all eventualities. It is proving more difficult to obtain medical and financial information, even by immediate members of the family, because of data protection regulations and consequently both types of Lasting Power of Attorneys are essential. The selection of individuals to act as attorneys is vital so you are in safe hands during any incapacity. If you have more complex business interests, different attorneys can be selected for specific assets.
Surprisingly, many people think about but never get round to making a Will which, in most cases, is straightforward and relatively inexpensive. The rules governing how an estate is distributed in the absence of a Will do not always work as you would think, even with married couples and those having a civil partnership. Coronavirus has focused our minds on putting our affairs in order and there has been an increase in demand for this service. We have carried out extensive risk assessments and the precautions we put in place make it safe (with protective screens) to take instructions in the office or, if preferred, over the telephone and by video link. We can also (in limited circumstances) attend at your home, for example to witness documents, whilst still observing social distancing rules.
Specialist advice is also available if you think you may have an inheritance tax liability. The present thresholds are favourable, particularly if you bequeath your home to your children or grandchildren. Gifts can be made in your lifetime which not only benefit those close to you immediately but sets the clock running to mitigate inheritance tax longer term. This must however be considered in the light of planning for care home fees. Advice on all these aspects is part of the legal health check we undertake.
Now is also a good time to prepare a summary of your assets and liabilities and rationalise all your paperwork. This will save time and cost for your family, executors and attorneys. Details of bank and building society accounts and other investments, with account numbers, are always useful especially if kept up to date.
Our main concern is that you and your family remain safe and healthy and it may help to know that we are here should you need assistance.